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Good Sam Club: Going, going, (almost) gone

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In early 2021 we wrote questioning the future of Good Sam club members. At that time, Good Sam Enterprises, the parent group, basically suspended all membership social gatherings, including chapter meetings and larger rallies. It also “put on hold” the responsibilities of state and provincial directors, oversight posts held voluntarily by men and women in the organization. All this was said to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But at the time we wondered if this was the final straw for a social group that had been active since founded by Art Rouse back in 1966.

‘And so it was, the social-minded groups of RVers under the Good Sam umbrella simply became Good Sams. Not members of the Good Sam Club.’

“The Club” ceases to be

Following the slowdown of the COVID pandemic, things got “back to normal” for the group. Rallies and chapter meetings went ahead, bringing a sense of normalcy to folks who’d been isolated for a long time. Still, there was a quiet undertone going on, particularly for the “club’s” directors. We put club in quotes, as while the Good Sam organization was begun as a club with a heavy social aspect, after company boss Marcus Lemonis came on board the “club” ceased to be.

Lemonis explained the drop of the word “club” to state directors this way. The newer generation, he said, was not interested in joining clubs. If the Good Sam organization was to grow with the help of younger ones, the “club” would have to go. And so it was, the social-minded groups of RVers under the Good Sam umbrella simply became Good Sams. Not members of the Good Sam Club.

While the psychology of all this might have sounded good at the time, in practice, dropping the term “club” did nothing to arrest the problem. Colorado Good Sam state director Rick Smith told us clearly that Lemonis’ approach flopped. Club or no club, Colorado’s membership is “aging out,” in his words. As older ones hang up the keys, new blood simply isn’t there to replace these older ones.

“Private” database

State directors across the country did what they could to prop up membership and interest new ones. The corporate Good Sam organization has a huge database of folks who have expressed interest in RVing. It could be a treasure trove of ones who might become Good Sams. Jonathan Boyd is Tennessee’s current state director, and has been for about three years. He told us that he met up with one of the Good Sam corporate brass at a rally. Jonathan thought that sending letters to some of those in the database might be a great way to stir up interest in membership.

The Good Sam Club man and Lemonis in 2012.

Boyd’s idea was met with flat rejection. “The database,” he was told, “is private.” Corporate couldn’t let it go. So Jonathan tried another approach. “How much would it cost us to provide you [corporate] with our letters, and you simply send our letters out to folks on the list?” No privacy issues there, right? After all, if your name ends up on the Good Sam corporate database, you can be sure that you’ll see plenty of stuff in your mail box, including Good Sam-promoted NASCAR rallies. No soap, corporate responded. End of subject.

More cutbacks from corporate

Fast forward to mid-2022. Good Sam corporate made it known that its support of Good Sam chapters throughout the country would be dramatically reduced. In the past, corporate had paid insurance premiums for Good Sam rallies. No more. In the most recent change, support for prizes handed out at rallies, already small according to some, were further cut back to a few gift certificates from corporate-owned Camping World stores.

Prior to COVID, state directors had in some cases received a small stipend for their work, or at least had expenses covered. That vanished. In the latest round, state directors were told their services were no longer needed. Effective at the end of this year, state directorships will be ended. Tennessee’s Boyd described the corporate explanation as he heard it. “We’re not supporting you in the way we should, so we’re eliminating you.” The company line also ran that resources needed to be directed elsewhere. “Seems like not a lot of resources” to redirect, observed Jonathan Boyd.

Chapters forced to decide

Where do these changes leave existing Good Sam chapters? Up in Rhode Island, state directors Gail and Steve Hogan are still running on hope. Last Father’s Day, their state rally drew 60 rigs. At the rally, members were asked what they wanted to do: Go out with a whimper, or keep rolling. “We’re on our own,” say the Hogans, for the lion’s share of rally expenses. In the end, say the Hogans, members said, “We’re not going to let anything stop us.” They’ll continue their affiliation with Good Sam and make up the financial shortfalls on their own.

South in Tennessee, Jonathan Boyd says the state’s chapters have similar feelings. They voted to stick with the corporate Good Sam organization “for now,” says Boyd. Out West, Colorado’s Rick Smith says the membership will be asked for its view at a Good Sam rally in September. But other states haven’t held to the line that Rhode Island and Tennessee have. Last year, Alabama Good Sams shed their club colors and closed out. They followed the same route that Mississippi and Alabama Sams had already decided on. In the Northeast area, only Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island remain in the corporate fold.



Postmortem?

What the future holds for Good Sam isn’t clear. And if a postmortem were to be ordered today, the report on the “cause of death” could show multiple reasons. “COVID sped things up in terms of loss of membership,” Jonathan Boyd says. But he adds there are other factors. Death, age, illness. “You’ve got to have the physical ability to camp,” he says. He says he’s watched too many older club members hang up the keys and relinquish their membership because of it. “They hated doing it, but they knew they had to.” Still, Boyd says the lack of corporate support has a great deal to do with Good Sam’s decline. He theorizes that corporate, when looking at Art Rouse’s offspring—the Good Sam Club, had this in mind. “They just want it to die on the vine.”

Are you a Good Sam?

If you are, we’d like to hear your comments on this matter. Please drop us a line by filling out the form below. Please include “Good Sam” on the subject line.

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Vanessa
4 months ago

The remaining chapters of Good Sam should check out FMCA (open to all RV types) and come under their umbrella. Many already have been welcomed with open arms.

RallyAce
4 months ago

I am new to the RV scene but have been around for more than a few decades. When we bought our first TT last year, we looked into Good Sam. To us there was no real value other than the discount at Camping World and Gander. As new owners, we took advantage of an offer for a one year membership for $20 at Gander. We stocked up on what we needed and the new member discount more than paid for the membership. One year later we see that joining just added our name to a list where we get about 5 mailings a month for various Camping World and Good Sam business ventures, all of which seem to be extended warranties or roadside assistance programs. I can see why folks are dismayed. It is now just another CW profit center and those profits are coming from selling extended warranties and roadside assistance programs.

Tim
4 months ago

Good Sam Life Member here, I have served my local chapter as president, vice president, and treasurer over the years. I’ve been active at the state level and have participated in many Samborees (rallies). I’ve been dismayed for ten years or more watching Lemonis cut, cut, and cut some more the national support for the state organizations.

We are (were) like family helping and supporting each other. Many organizations are struggling due to demographic pressures but this is all on Lemonis. For more than a decade he has systematically and frequently made changes that undermined the health of the club. I hope it survives but the outlook is grim.

We are also members of the Escapees which is a great organization dedicated to its members as the Good Sam Club was once.

Nikki
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Amen! Lemonis is not dedicated to the Good Sam goals. He’s slowly but surely dismantling it. Sad.

John Boy
4 months ago

I’ve been a lifetime member since 2008 or so. At that time they discounted all my past years annual subscription(5 years) to the lifetime. I’ve never gone to rallies I just use it for discounts at RV sites. I do have the flying J card but only use it sparingly. Since I now have a Jayco Seneca Diesel I use the TSD / WEX card which saves me MORE than using the Flying J card. In fact Flying J did accept this card but no longer,so what does that tell you?
I don’t have their RV insurance or roadside assistance anymore as I have this all covered under GEICO but do have the ESP. four weeks ago I did order 4 interstate AGM batteries for a few reasons…

  1. they were on sale,I was able to order them,and receive them in 3 weeks
  2. I called our Interstate battery story in Fort Collins,CO and they did not have them and I was unable to order them(REALLY!!!) I would have to wait for their next delivery and call them to see if they were in stock.
John Boy
4 months ago
Reply to  John Boy

To continue. Even with the sale price the batteries were still $15 more than if I had purchased them at the Interstate store.
I did get great customer service at CW through this buying process.

So I have my Pros and Cons on CW.
John
Boy

Tom
4 months ago

Not currently a Good Sam member but was in the past. Corporate’s decision to abandon the club and then let it flounder and sink was foolish and poorly thought-out. The relationship with club members was mutually supportive–members appreciated corporate’s support, and in turn, they supported Camping World. As a result of corporate’s action, I no longer buy goods, nor recommend Camping World. In fact, I steer people away. Goodwill is hard to come by, but as we’ve seen it’s easily trashed. Oh, by the way, I teach nearly 500 students a year on RV matters. 

JAMES
4 months ago

Been a member since 1986. This year we switched from Good Sam roadside assistance to Coach Net and will not renew our membership any more.

Last edited 4 months ago by JAMES
Dennis G.
4 months ago

When Good Sam (Good Samaritan) started, it was a club that was based on helping other RV travelers when and where they could. The current Good Sam structure is more about money than helping others.
I applaud the two Good Sam chapters that are trying to continue the social aspect of the club. At some point, another group of people will pop up to create a new Good Sam type club. It will become the new century social media outlet, like Good Sam used to be. Selfless volunteers be needed.

Diane Mc
4 months ago

We have a lifetime membership. Emailed Marcus when they had a deal for first timers and said we’ve been members for eons, what about us? He agreed & we got the discounted price. Cancelled their roadside assistance after a not so “good”experience. Still have RV insured thru them. Also have medical emergency benefit in case we have a medical issue on the road. And of course use it for campground discounts. Did take advantage of the NASCAR rallies long ago when the races were sold out. Met some nice people. Still see 3 of the couples at Daytona. One couple were the directors for NASCAR & big annual rallies. Not happy when Lemonis took over. Then lost their jobs w/Good Sam. Once we figured out the ropes we went direct to the tracks and saved a ton of money. Once, while still doing the group thing, a guy who was parked across from the group, came over and asked “how much did that antenna ball cost you”. Lol.

Spike
4 months ago

For all the reasons already stated by others, my membership in Good Sam, which I’ve maintained since 1999, will end in a week. I have no intention of renewing.

While I realize it has always been a business, I do believe that the pre-Lemonis executives, like Sue Bray, loved and supported the “club” aspect of it. They also provided value. When Lemonis took over the change away from that was swift to happen.

They are letting it “die on the vine” because as long as people are willing to send them revenue for very little cost to corporate, why kill the cash cow? I’m done participating in that!

Don F
4 months ago

It’s a shame The Good Sam Club became something that could be bought and sold. I’m sure things would be different if it was member owned like FMCA. I’ve been a member of both for many, many years and became a lifetime member of GS years ago which is now saving me money on yearly dues. I called them years ago and asked to have my name removed from their constant mailings which has reduced 99% of their junkmail. My parents joined a local chapter way back which became like an extended family. When they couldn’t go out on their own, I was able to act as their chauffeur and became a member of the chapter also and have been a member ever since. Group camping is the best thing we’ve ever done. Sadly, the younger set are not joiners and don’t know what they’re missing. As part of our chapter activities, we’ve toured nuclear power plants, aircraft manufactures and boat factories as well as many other businesses making for exciting and educational outings but fellowship is the biggest benefit.

Cindy
4 months ago

We bought a 3 year membership about a year and a half ago. We thought we would enjoy discounts at RV parks, but at every one that we’ve stayed, we could have used our AAA membership for the same discount. We don’t shop at Camping World, too expensive. Their discount for fuel isn’t worth it either. We use other fuel cards with better discounts. We won’t be renewing our membership when it’s up.

Thomas D
4 months ago

We’ve gone to 5 rallies over the years and had a great time. But when lemonnis took over things began to change. More and more advertising for one . Very seldom did we use the discount for camping, probably because they weren’t were I was. You could buy parts and accessories cheaper elsewhere. The one time I could have used road service it was going to be hours to change a tire. I’m in my last issue’s of RV and it’s gotten better than right after they dropped highways. Won’t miss all the mail they send out neither. RIP Good Sam. It was a good ride for awhile.

SJS
4 months ago

I’ve been a Lifetime Good Sam member for several years. Until I read this article I’d forgotten all about it. That tells you everything you need to know, don’t it?

Crowman
4 months ago

Joining Bad Sam resulted in about a half ton of garbage mail every year mailed to you. Lemons more like a pimp selling you to anyone with a buck.

Denny wagaman
4 months ago

I belong to GS for a discount on camp grounds. I don’t care about the politics of what’s his name And I will not quit shopping at his store just because I don’t agree with him. He is free to say And support whoever as I am. You have many other stories about RVing why continue to knock camping world, or continuing to tell us the sky is falling because some can’t find campgrounds. Time to move on 😂

bill
4 months ago
Reply to  Denny wagaman

😞😇 thanks for the non-bashing perspective! We agree..

Rolling Coal
4 months ago

The cold hard truth is, there’s just no money in it for Lemonis!

Ray
4 months ago
Reply to  Rolling Coal

This is a familiar pattern. When profit is the motive and ingenuity is lacking, CEOs downsize.

Ron
4 months ago

We are still members but we don’t go to any rallies. We always ask RV parks for Good Sam discount, & more & more parks say they have dropped Good Sam because cost them too much. We have Good Sam Flying J credit card & get $.06 off on fuel. We use the discount at Camping World, but it seems people not a member get same discount. We were using Good Sam insurance agent & were getting great deals on RV, Auto, & Home insurance, but not anymore. Not much benefit to being member anymore. We were using their trip wizard with the Good Sam GPS, but that went away also.

John M
4 months ago

We have a lifetime membership, but sure don’t see or use it much anymore. We use KOA more than anything now days.

Gary
4 months ago

Funny this article popped up. I was cleaning out my wallet the other day and there was a Good Sam club card that expired last Feb. It went into the trash. The only benefit I ever got out of it was a percent discount at Camping World when I could buy the exact product at other non CW dealers/retailers for less anyway.

Wayne Caldwell
4 months ago

We were members about 7 years ago, but after continuously receiving ridiculously fat envelopes with stuff that was asking for more and more money, we let our ‘membership’ expire.

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